The characters are:
Bait, a female Kehana sailor. (The player has decided to make a new character: Fey the Half-Ugak. She was introduced in Episode 2.)
Birgus, a male Scurillian earth mage. Birgus is a rather odd Scurillian with a penchant for self-control issues, ranging from his somewhat inconvenient alcoholism to his insubordinate claws wreaking havoc on anything within reach (usually contrary to his desires). He can be a bit of a jerk, alienating friends and enemies alike, but is also measured and thoughtful in his responses to crises, making him a rather strange voice of reason when everything is going to hell. The combination of his thick shell and near-constant inebriation makes him quite difficult to harm, to which most attempts at such just draw out laughter from him.
Calypso, a female Kraken water mage. Calypso was just under the minimum age for joining the Kraken military when the failed assault on the Hags happened. Since then she's dropped out of formal schooling and been making her way picking up a little of this and a little of that. She tends not to give up all the information unless directly pressed for it, and she has a great dislike of those who would attack something that can't fight back.
Fey, a female Half-Ugak fighter. Tall. Strong. Red. Long hair. Brawny is an Edge she uses, so she does appear to be "ripped." Others (especially since in a port) will soon learn that a Hindrance for Fey is Squanderous. Another Hindrance (quickly noticeable) is a quirk: Fey is very touchy -feely for a Half-Ugak. She likes "hugs," and other signs of affection and camaraderie.
Fangera, a female Atani. (No description, as the player was only able to play the first two sessions.) Fangera is both curious and cautious, and prefers to fight with two hand axes.
Grk, a male Grael fighter. Glrk was born 12th in a litter of 12. A membrane had formed around him, so he claims to have been born from an "egg." He was the runt of the litter, so he was the last to leave and has been left behind many times in his life. He has learned to live with the frequent abandonment, however, and looks forward to being alone again; it lets him find new friends and help them fix things! A long time ago he helped fix something on a ship, so from that point on he thought he could fix everything. He is so big and dumb-looking that no one has taken the time to explain he can't fix anything -- he only makes it worse.
Lt. John T. Shubrick, a male Human Navy lieutenant. (He was introduced in Episode 2.) John T. ("Jack") Shubrick is a native of Boston and a Lieutenant in the US Navy. He was briefly made Captain of the USS Epervier and given the task of taking captured flags and a copy of a treaty with the Dey of Algiers to the United States. Had this mission proved successful it would have brought the War of 1812 to an early end. The Epervier was last seen sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar en route to the United States in July of 1815. The Epervier was lost in a "hurricane" somewhere in the vicinity of the Bermuda Triangle in August of 1815. All 134 souls who were on board are believed to have been lost. Jack Shubrick knows differently...
Lou, a male Kraken fire mage. Lou is a Kraken who was mentored by the great Sqaur'lesh, the Kraken archmage (killed at the Battle of the Hags). Generally easy going and helpful, Lou becomes consumed with vengeance whenever confronting any of the Hags' minions. Along the way, he is dogged by his rival elementalist, Glarn, who blames Lou for the death of their master.
The heroes were passengers and crew on the Rebecca, an Earther trading vessel making a run from the Free Towns to Kiera with a load of timber. Unfortunately, the ship struck something near the savage land of Torath-Ka, and the captain managed to beach her safely before she could sink. The damage to the ship was severe, but they would at least be stranded on the dangerous island for several days while the ship's carpenter affected repairs. The heroes were hand-picked by the captain to forage along the beach for extra provisions and, most importantly, fresh water. He warned them to stick to the shores and not venture too far inland.
Several hours saw them a few miles from the Rebecca with little to show for their efforts. They found barely any wildlife and a paucity of edible fruits. After some time they came across the wreck of a skiff; her hull was stove in, but with a little work she could be made seaworthy again. Grk tried to affect repairs which, for him, consisted of bashing the little boat with his battle ball. Something shiny caught his attention, and he reached through the now slightly wider hole in ship's side to fetch it. It was a battered spyglass, that rattled when he shook it. The others had located a patch of fruit and were about to start gathering it when something crashed through the underbrush towards them.
It was a yellowback, a fierce, two-legged reptile with sharp teeth and slashing claws, and a big one at that (thanks to an Adventure card that added +2 to its size). It leaped at Fangera, who avoided its attack. The others, realizing that it could be harvested for provisions, started attacking it in hopes of bringing it down. Suddenly, even more activity erupted from the depths of the jungle, and a flock of razorwings burst from the trees and swarmed the yellowback (another Adventure Card). If they didn't do something quick, they razorwings would fly off with all the edible meat. The party brought down the yellowback, and blasts of fire and water from Lou and Calypso, respectively, drove off the razorwings.
They now had as much extra provisions as they could carry, and started discussing the skiff. It wasn't so badly damaged that it would require a full carpenter to repair, and they all agreed that it would be great to have a ship of their own. Grk showed Birgus the spyglass he'd found, and moments after the Scurillian said he couldn't repair it, one of his uncontrollable claws clipped in two. A piece of parchment fell to the sand at their feet. It was a map, showing an island, with coordinates, and various other features and ciphers that led them to believe it was a treasure map. It was signed "Cap'n Pike." The group finally decided to return to the Rebecca to deliver the provisions, then excuse themselves to return to the skiff to repair it.
To their dismay, they returned to only a burning hull and pools of blood. Something terrible had happened to the remaining crew. With some searching, they found large footprints and drag marks leading off into the jungles. It was obvious that the Ugaks had attacked and carried off the captain and what crew had survived the wreck. Calypso braved the fires to rescue the navigational equipment and charts from the captain's cabin before they were lost, whilst the others saved what other gear and supplies they might need to fix up the little skiff. They thought about just fixing the ship and getting out of there, but they were faced with a dilemma: they knew that if the Ugaks could sacrifice enough living non-Ugak blood, they could call forth their living gods. There would be no time to get the skiff repaired before whatever horror the Red Men summoned up came after them. They had little choice but to follow the trail into the jungle to rescue the rest of the crew -- or kill them before the Ugaks could. While they were discussing this, Fangera had slipped away, her powerful curiosity having gotten the better of her.
She, and the party, several minutes behind her, managed to track the Ugaks several miles inland. There, in a clearing, was one of the Red Mens' infamous sacrificial blood pools. Tied up by a tall statue of a leering monkape were five of the remaining crewmen, with an Ugak shaman standing over them chanting. Eight more of the Red Men swayed and danced around the pool. The heroes began to sneak into position, but something caught the shaman's eye and he ordered his tribe to attack! The shaman kicked one of the hapless crewmen into the pool, and it seethed and bubbled as the man's flesh peeled away. The element of surprise lost, the heroes jumped into action.
The Ugaks fought ferociously, defending their holy site and their shaman. Calypso and Lou, the Krakens, stayed fairly close to one another and took on all savages who came after them. Fangera flew just above the trees, trying to reach the shaman, who had scaled the monkape statue to blast the party with vicious, life-draining black bolts. Grk and Birgus waded into combat, trusting their strength and nigh-invulnerability to protect them. Bait tried to creep around in secret through the jungle to reach the shaman, but he saw her and directed some of his bolts at her. Found out, she gave up on stealth and simply charged towards the statue to aid Fangera. Mid-way through the battle, the shaman successfully called up a giant monkape, which rose up from the blood pool and literally leaped into the fray. It swept its tree-like club in a mighty arc, killing another of the hapless crew and nearly cracking Birgus' shell. Enraged, more at the loss of some of the rum bottles in his pack than the actual injury, Birgus blasted the giant monkape, the shaman, and the shaman's bodyguards with a burst of elemental stones. The battle continued, and eventually more and more Ugaks began to fall. Lou and Calypso battled them in close combat and with magical bolts. Grk and Birgus finally managed to fell the giant monkape, and Bait and Fangera reached the top of the statue to confront the shaman directly. The savage shaman soon realized that the battle was lost, and attempted to sacrifice himself to the gods to atone for his failure but this was denied: Bait and Fangera cut him down before he could leap to his death into the blood pool.
The battle finally won, the party freed the few remaining crewmen and tended their wounds. Now, more than ever, they wanted to get back to fixing the skiff and put Torath-Ka abaft at last. The surviving crewmen were a Kenaha named Mongrel, a human ship's carpenter named Miguel Figuroa, and a pair of Masaquani twins named Caras and Cais Cath. Fortunately for the party, Figuroa was the carpenter on the Rebecca, and would be instrumental in getting the skiff sailing again. Several hours later, after scavenging what supplies and provisions they could from the wreck of the Rebecca, they did just that. Using the navigational equipment they salvaged, they found that the island on the mysterious map was in the southern reaches of the Whip Islands. They made for the nearest populated island: Bridgandy Bay.
This adventure is based on Pike's Trove from the High Seas supplement of FGU's game of historical swashbuckling, Flashing Blades. I tweaked it a bit to allow for the supernatural elements of 50 Fathoms.
Sr. Figuroa careened the skiff on the beach at Brigandy Bay to affect repairs, giving the heroes time to explore that den of thieves. Bait accepted her share of the take from the Rebecca's cash box and disappeared into the city. The Cath twins, although grateful for their rescue from the clutches of the Ugaks, likewise took their leave. The party found out a little about Captain Pike: he was a cruel Kehana pirate captain with red scales who sailed the Pirate Sea for years. Known for this savagery, Red Pike mysteriously disappeared 5 years ago and neither he nor his ship, the Sea Serpent, had been heard from since.
Over the next two days, the party separated to carouse at their leisure. Fangera spent most of her time at the Black Queen Inn, watching with disdain as it became apparent that the barmaids there were abused and likely there against their will. Grk, Lou, and Calypso worked towards provisioning the ship for the week-long journey to the Whip Islands to explore the islet on the map they'd found. True to his habit Burgis spent his time -- and his cash -- on Drunkard's Row. Near the end of the first day, Burgis encountered a rather garrulous Half-Ugak named Fey. She had wandered into the latest dimly lit tavern he'd found himself in, having drank her previous companions under various tabled along the Row. She invited herself to his table, and despite his best efforts to retain his solitude she seemed bent on having a drink and a chat with him. Even after one of his wayward claws broke the bottle she was drinking from, Fey remained at his table trying to engage him in conversation. Meanwhile, the others were wandering the open air bazaar looking for anything interesting. Lou, in particular, was trying to find something arcane or magical and, more importantly, affordable. He caught sight of a fancy-looking scroll tube at one hastily-constructed stall. While trying desperately to shoo away Grk's fumbling hands, the merchant Kal Karas, informed Calypso and Lou that the case contained a treasure map! While Karas couldn't promise its authenticity and wouldn't let them see it, after some coaxing he did show them that it bore the signature "L'Ollonaise." Calypso was able to talk him down in price from $1,000 to $750, but that was still beyond their means at the moment. They took note of the merchant and told him they'd be back. A while later, they came across a Human sitting before a begging bowl, and struck up a conversation with him. He said his name was Lt. John "Jack" Shubrick, a man who'd found himself cast on this alien shore without coin or respectable position. He told them he was once the master of a ship called the Epervier, which was now lost in the Flotsam Sea. A man of such skill could be of use to them, so they agreed to take him on as crew.
Once repairs had been completed on the as yet unnamed skiff, they once more took to the Pirate Sea and made for the southern tip of the Whip Islands. The caught a fair wind that filled the sails (thanks to an Adventure Card that doubled their speed for a day) and Calypso estimated that they'd be able to make the Crooked Isle in about four days.
A day out from Brigandy Bay Fangera spotted a ship on the horizon from the crow's nest. As they drew nearer, they realized that it was a privateer from the British East India Company. Jack Shubrick couldn't resist hoisting the American flag once the others told him of that company's presence in Caribdus. It soon became apparent that the ship, a frigate, was under assault by a savage flock of razor wings! (I got a Joker when drawing for random encounters -- two for one!) They could see through their spyglasses that the crew of the other vessel were waving them on, confident in their ability to drive off the fierce little beasts. Drawing closer might have been taken as a threat, moving in for the kill on a weakened and distracted enemy -- to the heroes heeded their warning and soon left the beleaguered ship in their wake. It was only a day later that they encountered another threat from the Pirate Sea: a massive great white shark! The creature, every bit as long as the ship they were on, circled ominously and slammed into the ship with such force that the crew on deck were nearly thrown off their feet. The heroes returned the attack, but were unable to drive the beast away. Birgus, who'd been below deck, stomped up join the others, and with a single burst of wet sand, nearly flayed the great fish. With thoughts of shark-fin soup in their minds, the crew pulled the carcass aboard and gutted it. As luck would have it, they found a dismember hand wearing a fancy ring and a small pouch of doubloons in the shark's stomach.
As they were turning the shark into provisions, Fangera reported from the crow's nest that they were sailing into flotsam and jetsam. Calypso guided the skiff through the debris field of a recently wrecked ship, avoiding tangled rigging and cloying sails that littered the water. To their dismay, there was nothing salvageable in the wreckage. As they passed through, they heard voice calling for help, and soon they'd rescued a sorry-looking Scurillian female who'd been clinging to a piece of broken decking. She introduced herself as Equais, and explained that she'd been on a vessel called Lala's Pride that went down in a storm a few days prior. She was gruff and cantankerous, as are all of her kind, but eventually she told them that she'd been measuring the depth of the water along the coasts. Her findings indicated that Caribdus was still sinking. The water was still encroaching on the land, almost imperceptibly, but the fact remained that the curse of the Sea Hags was indeed ongoing. Equais also mentioned that she had to talk to Tressa the Red, the last known living archmage, to see if she had any ideas about how to stop the rising tide. When asked where Tressa the Red resided, the Scurillian told them that she dwelt in the Gullet, and that reaching it was likely far beyond their skills as sailors. With that, she ordered Birgus to slice her off some shark meat for supper, and retreated below decks to find a place to get some rest. Although not impressed with her manners or her seeming lack of gratitude, the party weren't so cruel as to heave her back overboard, so they continued on to the Crooked Isle.
The island was easily found, and soon they'd beached the skiff and split into two parties to investigate the two possible locations for the treasure mentioned on the map. Sr. Figuroa remained with the ship, and Equais was quite happy to stay beachside to continue her studies of the tides. Lou, Calypso, and Jack went overland to a tower mentioned on the map, while Fey, Birgus, and Grk made their way up the back to a sea cave at the bottom of a sheer cliff. The tower held two 8-pounders, 20 cannon balls, some wet and useless gunpowder, and 12 rusty cutlasses. They could mount the cannons on the skiff, so already this venture had paid off. The map mentioned three crosses at the top of a hill, where, at low tide, they would see... something... the map didn't make it clear. At the sea cave Grk found an old ship's anchor which he dug out of the sand and insisted on trying to "fix." The others noticed a peculiar symbol etched onto the anchor, like an X with a small dot to either side. The same symbol was on the map. The cave terminated in a masonry wall. Soon the party had regrouped, thanks to a crude ladder of metal rungs affixed to the cliff face.
Calypso blasted the masonry wall open with bolts of water, and, without any requisite caution, Grk charged forward eager for an adventure. And immediately found himself up to his waist in quicksand. Fortunately, his great strength enabled him to pull himself free on the far side of the pool. With the quicksand noted, the others were able to edge along the sides of the pool in safety and continue on. Soon the cave split; one way led to a crude door fashioned from deck timbers, and the other meandered off into darkness. They stood a moment in debate as to which way to go, when once again Grk dashed on ahead through the door. An object like a stone fell from the ceiling, and, without thinking, Jack Shubrick dove on it to protect the others. His heroism paid off, as everyone was spared the effects of the blast stone. He took a nasty wound to the belly, but Calypso was able to heal the injury with her magic. Fangera discovered that the other cave led to another trap: an open shaft that was who knows how deep. The next room along contained a skeleton impaled on a boarding pike protruding from the wall. Two other small holes betrayed the presence of more pikes, so with a little forethought they were able to avoid them. From there, the entered a labyrinth seemingly carved from the living rock. Fortune was with them, however, as they were able to locate a secret door that led out of the maze and into another tunnel. Part way down that tunnel, they tripped yet another trap, which sent a huge boulder rolling down a ramp towards them. Everyone but Calypso and Fangera charged past the rock and entered the final treasure room. The boulder then blocked the path, separating Calypso and Fangera from the others.
Fey entered the room first, and was narrowly missed by a pistol shot from a skeletal Kehana at the far end of the room. Clad in the tattered finery of a pirate captain, this was Red Pike, or what was left of him. Somehow granted a life beyond death, Red Pike held a two-barreled pistol in one hand and a rusted cutlass in the other. As the heroes filtered into the room, Red Pike's undead crewmen rose to their feet around him and joined their captain. The battle was on! The heroes waded into combat with the undead pirates, slowly gaining some ground against them. Red Pike took on all comers, and was soon surrounded by Grk, Fey, Birgus, and Lou. Calypso and Fangera were able to join the fight after Calypso blasted the boulder to gravel with some powerful bolts of water. Despite being bolstered by Red Pike's undying rage (Red Pike had the Command Edge, giving the skeletal pirates a cumulative +3 to become unshaken), the skeletons started to fall to inert piles of bones under the attacks of the heroes. It was a hard-won victory, but soon the party stood alone against Red Pike, and he, too, was finally banished back to his eternal rest by a powerful impact from Grk's battle ball.
All counted, Pike's Trove brought the party $4,500 in gold and jewelry, a fancy double-barreled pistol, and a fog horn. Their fortunes were growing, and they had many horizons before them to explore.
The party decided to remain in the Whip Islands for a few days. They'd heard in their previous travels that valuable objects often wash up on the shores of the islands from the Flotsam Sea, and the idea of finding more buried treasure intrigued them. Midway through their first day of beach-coming, however, they were beset by a vicious gang of eight Octopons that surged up from beneath the waves and the sand. The party fought them off, killing each of them in turn. When they finally pulled the metal chest that had attracted their attention from the sand, they found it to only be holding a meager sum. After a few more days of wandering the beach and finding little of any real value, they decided to sail west to Baltimus. They questioned Equais a bit more, wondering how the waters of Caribdus could still be rising when they seemingly vanished down the Gullet. Equais had no answer. Jack surmised that, perhaps, the Gullet would lead to a way back to Earth. Lou was doubtful.
It was an uneventful journey, at first, bringing only a distant sighting of another huge shark like the one that had attacked them off the coast of Torath-Ka. Three days further along, however, they sailed into a gloomy, misty portion of the sea that felt right to none of them. The sails hung limp on the yardarms, and all around them a bleak fog rose up from the inky darkness. An eerie blue glow began to form behind Birgus, and resolved into the ghostly figure of a Human man in tattered clothing. Fey and Sr. Figuroa were terrified by this ghastly apparition, but the others were more stalwart. They demanded that the specter identify itself, and it replied that it was the shade of Captain Iago Alfonso de Toledo, a visitor from Earth who's ship, the Black Prince had foundered and sunk a day's sail away in the Pirate Sea. The spirit went on to explain that he and his men had abandoned ship in a longboat, and that he had killed himself by drowning to avoid a slow, suffering death. He went on to beg them for their assistance, to sail to the location of the Black Prince and retrieve a locket that belonged to him in life. With that, he said, he would be able to pass on to his final reward. With a spectral finger, Captain de Toledo placed a black mark on Calypso's map to indicate the location of the sunken wreck. With some trepidation, the party accepted the ghost's request and changed tack to veer north. They had provisions to spare, so a few days' detour on the course to Baltimus wouldn't be a danger.
After a day's sail, they arrived at the coordinates Capt. de Toledo had given them. The ghost appeared once more, and offered them a 'blessing.' Birgus and Jack accepted the blessing, which rendered them unable to breathe air. Apparently the ghost's blessing was some form of twisted environmental protection that would enable them to survive underwater and explore the wreck of the Black Prince. Grk and Fey refused de Toledo's touch; Grk because he trusted his ability to hold his breath, and Fey because she was still terrified of him. She remained above the waves with Sr. Figuroa. The heroes leaped overboard and began swimming down to the wreck. On their way, they were accosted by two sharks. Jack, demonstrating more disregard for his own safety, swam practically into the jaws of one of the fish to engage it with his knives. Birgus followed him, attacking the other shark. Between the two of them, they killed the man-eaters and resumed their trek to the ocean floor. Soon, they came upon the wreck sitting on the edge of a cliff some 20 fathoms down.
The great ship lay more or less upright on the bottom, her bow broken away and lost when she struck ground. Calypso swam to the captain's cabin to search for his sea chest, while the others, distracted by some strange glow in the Black Prince's hull, ventured below decks. In the captain's cabin, Calypso found the corpses of several of the ship's crew. In the hold, the others made a gruesome discovery. The ship was filled with skeletons chained to the walls by heavy, rusted manacles. This was apparently a slave ship -- a fact the spirit of Capt. de Toledo had not revealed to them. Before they could contemplate this further, the corpses of the ship's crew in the hold and the captain's cabin lurched to their feet and attacked as zombies! The skeletons of the slaves, however, remained still. The zombies were of little challenge to the heroes, and after the battle those in the hold took some time to locate the glowing object that had attracted them. They found one skeleton wearing a bone and shell band on its upper arm. This was the only thing out of the ordinary in the hold, so they assumed that this is what they had seen. Birgus began to pull and cut the manacles from the rotten timbers to give the skeletons freedom in death that they did not have in life. The others agreed. Meanwhile, Calypso and Jack found de Toledo's sea chest and joined the others. They had a discussion about what to do about de Toledo, and decided that they'd play it by ear once they saw the contents of the chest.
Back on the surface, the crew climbed aboard their skiff and knocked open the rusty chest. As they were fishing through the contents, the ghost of Captain de Toledo reappeared, demanding that they hand over the locket. Calypso had already pocketed the locket, however, so all the ghost could do was wail and scream and wave his spectral arms. Fey and Sr. Figuroa retreated below decks, still terribly frightened by the ghost. Trying their best to ignore the shrieking spirit, the heroes sorted through the contents of the chest, and found papers that indicated that de Toledo had frequently suffered as much as 50% loss of his slave cargo on each voyage. He was a cruel, heartless man who cared little for his living cargo. Having found what they had suspected they would find, the party denied de Toledo his rest by casting the locket overboard. The specter wailed and screamed all the louder, and swore his vengeance as he vanished from their sight. Upon closer inspection of the arm band, Lou realized that it was most likely magical, providing some sort of protection from evil spirits. This, perhaps, was why the slaves' skeletons were spared the fate of undeath. Jack was able to identify it as a protective charm. He'd seen similar ones amongst the African slaves in America. Grk claimed it, but was unable to wear it on his arm due to his immense size.
As they sailed from the site of the wreck, their thoughts turned to stories of personal tragedy (via a Dramatic Interlude). Lou spoke of his master, Squar'lesh, lost in the battle with the Sea Hags all those years ago. Calypso mourned having been too young to participate in the battle. Jack spoke of how he'd lost his son fishing at night. They used an oil lamp to attract the fish. When the boy knocked it over Jack did not react quickly enough and as the oil fire spread the boy's clothes caught on fire. Before he knew it the small boat was engulfed in flames. The boy lost his life in the accident and Jack swore an oath to himself that he would never again be too slow to react. Thus, his often rash actions were a result of the promise me made himself that night. Grk told the others how he'd often been abandoned in his life, which explained why he was so eager to prove himself and make friends. Birgus lamented his wild claws, which in many cases have caused him personal misfortune and turned him to drink. Fey told of her mentor back in Cuwayo, Monah Monroe, who'd fallen into a coma some time ago and would possibly never recover.
At long last they returned to their course, heading for Baltimus with all haste. Soon their ship, which they had finally named the Valdez (yes, the players named it after the Exxon Valdez, of all things), was moored in the great harbor. And it was party time! The crew had been through a lot in the last few weeks, and now that they were in a large city it was time to go carousing. They sold what goods and treasure they cared to sell, increasing their coffers a bit, and took to the taverns that lined the docks. Their cash and the taverns' ales and rum flowed like water. They made many friends in that wild week, and left quite an impression on the locals. (And they now have a +1 on Streetwise rolls in Baltimus.) During the revelry, however, Fey received some bad news. Monah Monroe, the local Masaquani who had raised her, had passed away not long before her arrival in Baltimus. She attended her mistress' funeral, and also discovered that she'd inherited a tidy sum from the Monroe family. (Basically, Fey gained an advance and took the Rich edge. This was the backstory to allow taking a Background Edge after character creation.) As for the others, Grk spent his time with the homeless and destitute. He'd been abandoned many times in his life, and felt a kinship with those poor folk. Jack managed to find some fellow Americans, and for the first time started to feel somewhat at home in this strange world. He even got an American eagle tattoo to commemorate the occasion. Calypso met a strange man with a bird tattoo on his arm, but never managed to get his name. She also fell in with a flamboyant Doreen hair stylist who, plied with many drinks, had his tongue loosened and shared gossip with her about some of his clients. Birgus made acquaintances with a grizzled old Masaquani barkeep in a seedy pub and they spent much time drunkenly mocking passersby and griping about the state of the world. He was about the only person Birgus has met that could keep up with his drinking habits.
During their stay in Baltimus, Lou came across Bori Balfor's herbalist shop. He and Bori fell into conversation, and Bori presented him with a business proposition. The Masaquani explained that he had samples of the flora of nearly every island in Caribdus but one: Torath-Ka. He offered a hefty sum for each cargo space of botanical samples from Torath-Ka, provided that they came from deep within the island's interior. It was a dangerous journey, to be sure, but could prove profitable. The reaction of the others ranged from eager to dubious, but the more they thought about it the more their opinions turned to the latter. How long would such a venture take? How many hands would they need to carry that many plant samples? What dangers would they face for such a long duration deep in the Savage Land? During the week-long party the others were having dockside, Lou spent time amongst the local Half-Ugak population trying to learn more about Torath-Ka. He needed to know if such a venture would be profitable enough to be worth the risk. (The result of that research will come about in the next session's roleplaying.)
The crew's rowdy week in Baltimus was coming to an end. Lou had found some sailors and Half-Ugaks who knew much about Torath-Ka, and they told him after his description of their adventure there that the creature Birgus killed was most certainly not the Ugak god. What they had seen was "merely" a giant monkape. The actual god, Donga, was easily as tall as a ship's mainmast, and his foot could cover the bar in which they were sitting and smash it flat. He also found out about the other Walking Gods: Ssss the Snake, a serpent thicker than a man is tall and longer than an anchor chain, Jinka-Tahn the Shark, who could swallow an entire ship's crew whole, Skittaka, the Three in One, three massive spiders with legs like trees, and last, but not least, Tyranak, the two-legged reptile with teeth like swords. Lou also learned some of the inter-tribal politics of the Ugaks, taking careful note of the fact that although they sometimes war amongst themselves they almost always unite against outsiders.
Lou, ever on the search for magical trinkets, eventually found himself in Konaidas’ World of Wonder, listening as the old Scurillian told him of the many mystical wonders he had for sale. Konaidas showed Lou a ship's figurehead, shaped like a dragon, which actually breathed fire upon command! Other items in the shop were a rum bottle which would, over night, transform the worst grog into the best liquor (this greatly interested Birgus), and a Scavenger's Compass that pointed toward treasure rather than north. When asked about his prices, Konaidas gave back a sum that Lou knew from experience was well over 10 times what such items would normally sell for. Something was amiss at the World of Wonder, but Lou couldn't quite put his tentacles on what it was. Calypso put a down payment on the compass, with the promise to deliver the rest within a week. Meanwhile, Jack Shubrick had fallen in with a group of fellow displaced Americans, one of which was a grizzled old salt named Richard McWill. He took a liking to Jack, and let him in on the details of a shipment that could net $10,000 for a crew barmy enough to take on the challenge. Jack took this news back to the others, who agreed to at least hear McWill's offer.
The following night the crew met with McWill and his associates in a smoky back room at the Severed Head. The two wary parties spent some time feeling each other out, and finally McWill presented his offer. He had a special cargo that needed to be delivered with all haste to Jomba Town. They could take possession of the shipment in 2 days, to give them time to provision up, and they'd be paid upon delivery by a man named Ian O'Connel. McWill was hesitant to name specifically what the cargo was, but was finally persuaded to let them know that they'd need to provision for 20 extra mouths. The 'cargo' was a shipment of Masaquani, Atani, and Doreen slaves. The crew realized that the $10,000 payment wasn't worth throwing their
lot in with slavers.
From that moment, they started hatching a plan to bring these foul people to justice. They accepted the arrangement, and acquired the provisions necessary for the trip. Their plan was to sail out of sight of Baltimus, then lay about looking for naval ships to turn themselves in. The two days passed, and the crew met up with McWill's partners, a pair of Masaquani named Ana Alann (tall, slender, and bristling with knives) and Lam Lianus (short and stout as a cannon barrel). They showed the crew to a run-down shack at the end of a dilapidated pier where they could moor the Valdez to receive the shipment at midnight. The shack was on the second level of a two-level pier, with two large cranes to bring cargo to and from a ship docked at the lower pier. They had to steel their resolve as they saw the sad eyes of the chained up slaves -- they didn't want to tip their hands to McWill's crew! They took note of about a half-dozen others working with Ana and Lam, and carefully noted their faces so they could find them later if need be.
Soon the Valdez was pulling out of Baltimus Harbor, and the crew went about freeing the slaves from their manacles and explaining their plan to them. By some great fortune, a few hours after leaving port they ran across no less a ship than the HMS Justice, the great warship of the noted Admiral Nelson Duckworth. They rose the white flag and Lou signaled to the Justice using his elemental manipulation to create signal flares. They were ordered to raise sail and prepare to be boarded, an order with which they readily complied. Soon, the somewhat pompous and impatient Lieutenant Miller had commandeered their vessel. "Temporarily," Calypso reminded him, to which Miller replied that if she didn't hold her tongue he'd see to it that it was not temporary. He listened to their explanation of the slaver ring they'd come across in Baltimus, and this caused Lt. Miller some concern. With some hesitation, he agreed to take them before Admiral Duckworth himself so they could present their case.
It was well after midnight by this time, and Adm. Duckworth, still in his nightshirt, was somewhat displeased at being awakened at such an hour. Lt. Miller presented the heroes, and, with little else to do, Duckworth listened to their tale. It was Fey who spoke for the party, surprisingly enough, and she proved to be quite well-spoken for a Half-Ugak. When she mentioned the recent death of her mentor, Monah Monroe, Adm. Duckworth even gave his condolences. Her words flowed loudly and with purpose, and moved Duckworth into action. (I used the Social Conflict rules, and by the third point of the argument Fey's player had racked up well more than the 5 successes needed for the target to offer more support than requested!) He temporarily commissioned the crew of the Valdez on the spot, giving them leeway to find and bring to justice the slavers they'd discovered. To that end, he even provided three of his Marines from the Justice to lend credence to their mission. There was one stipulation, however... Duckworth wasn't commissioning murderers. He wanted the slavers to face justice in the courts, which meant they had to be taken alive. The party agreed, and were soon heading back to Baltimus to find Richard McWill and his cruel band.
They dropped off Fey, Jack, and the Marines as quickly as they could in Baltimus, and the rest took the Valdez back out to sea. Their plan was to assail the slavers' shack on two fronts: by land and by sea. The land crew hid themselves well by the pier and waited. Soon their little skiff loomed out of the darkness very nearly at full sail. Grk hurled the anchor over the railing, pulling the little ship hard a-port and bringing her alongside the pier. (Basically a Bootlegger Turn, using the Vehicle Combat rules and a fairly impressive Boating roll from Calypso at the helm!) The slavers on watch, not knowing what to make of this, were took unawares as the crew leaped from the ship to the dock and started making their way up to the shack. Grk and Birgus took the quickest path, and simply climbed the pilings! Meanwhile, Fey, Jack, and the Marines saw their cue and ran the length of the dock to engage few slavers that were standing guard. It was a furious battle, and only a single shot was fired -- one of the slavers tried to shoot Birgus, but was quickly disarmed and taken down by the Marines. The slavers were not expecting any sort of armed attack, and soon were gathered in a grumbling heap, chained up by their own manacles. Flushed with their success, the heroes turned their attention towards Baltimus, and that smoky back room at the Severed Head!
They left the slavers in the possession of the town guard, and made their way as quickly as possible to the tavern. This time, Grk and the Marines were sent around to the back to prevent escape that way. The others gathered at the front door of the Head. Birgus and Jack burst in first, with Birgus picking a fight with some of the men he recognized as being with Richard McWill in their first meeting. Jack made his way towards the back room, leaping over surprised bar patrons and tables as he went. Lou followed them. Calypso and Fey stayed outside by the door, to keep slavers from seeing freedom that way. Soon the Severed Head erupted in that most time-honored tradition: the bar fight! Innocent patrons crowded around the door in a mad rush to get away. Lou and Birgus battled the slavers over chair and table whilst Jack, having leaped onto the bar, took on Ana Alann and her many knives. During the fight, Ana revealed to Jack that she didn't really want to do battle. She claimed to have a soft spot for the crab-folk, and seeing how impressive Birgus was in melee she had much respect for him and his companions. (Birgus' player played the Love Interest adventure card, and this was the only way I could think of to interpret it in this instance.) Jack would have none of that, though, as he wanted to see these slavers face the gallows. Lam Lianus appeared from the back room, and he crossed the bar to engage Birgus and Lou. Fey and Calypso provided support from the front entrance, with Fey trying to help funnel the innocent patrons out the door and Calypso blasting water bolts as the opportunities presented themselves. Grk and the Marines stopped Richard McWill from escaping out the back, and even convinced Ana to give herself up once Jack had started getting the better of her and she tried to flee. The Severed Head was a bit of a mess of toppled tables, broken glass, and puddles of water, but at last the leaders of the newly founded slaving ring were taken down.
A week later, after the crew's testimony to the courts in Baltimus and even some words from Admiral Duckworth himself, Richard McWill, Ana Alann, Lam Lianus, and their nine cohorts were dancing on the end of a rope. A strong message was sent to any other would-be slavers in Baltimus that such activity would not be tolerated there. The crew were rewarded a tidy sum of $500 for each slaver's head. After the trials, Duckworth approached the crew of the Valdez and congratulated them on their success. He said that, should they be interested in privateering for the British East India company, he would put in a good word for them. This greatly conflicted poor Jack, as he was an American from a time period when the British were his enemies. The others thanked him for his consideration, and turned their thoughts to the future. Where now would their adventures take them?
The crew spent a few more days in Baltimus, mainly to research Konidas' World of Wonder to find out just how anyone managed to buy anything from the price-gouging Scurillian. Calypso and Lou talked to various folks around town, but found out little more than affirmation that every now and again Konidas does make a sale. Either his patrons were exceedingly rich, or there was some catch to it.
After staking out the World of Wonder for a while, Lou and Calypso watched as a Masaquani air mage wandered into the shop and exited some time later with a new pistol tucked into his belt. They tried to talk to him about his sale, but he was reluctant to reveal anything. Finally, he told them that it's possible to buy something from Konidas, but "You have to know what you're talking about." And with that cryptic bit of advice, he excused himself and continued on.
By now Jack Shubrick and Birgus had joined them, and the four of them went about concocting a plan to wheedle Konidas down on his prices. Despite their best efforts and cajoling, bargaining, and haggling, everything short of threatening the old crab would get him to budge on his prices. Finally, Calypso had a bit of a brainstorm. She told Konidas that the elements answered to her command. He implied, somewhat rudely, that he doubted her story, but she proved it by generating a small mass of water via her bolt power. At long last, Konidas acquiesced on his prices and allowed them to purchase the magic compass at a fair price: $2,000. Finally, the odd advice the Masaquani air mage had given them made sense. Konidas would only sell magic items to magic users. He claimed it was too dangerous to let such power fall into inexperienced hands (or claws, or tentacles, or flippers, or whichever sort of appendage his customers might have).
Meanwhile, Fey was in negotiations with Earlas Erk, owner of the Severed Head Tavern. She wanted to see if she could go into business with him, and agreed to act as bouncer -- without pay -- when she was in port as a means of making up for the problems she and the rest of the crew had caused him. Erk was experiencing a drop in business since the raid, as word that Admiral Duckworth's men were seen arresting patrons there had gotten around and scared off many of the regulars. Also, having recently inherited a tidy sum from the estate of Monah Monroe, Fey was looking into certain business ventures to help better her station and, perhaps, even to change the opinions most folks had about Half-Ugaks in general. She made quite an impression on Erk, to say the least, and a true friendship began to grow between the two of them. (Fey has a rather impressive Persuasion skill!)
The day came at long last for the crew to leave Baltimus. They had decided, at Lou's suggestion, to sail to Bluth's Crown. Ever curious about magic in all its forms and wonders, Lou wanted to explore the small colony of elementalists at the Crown in hopes of expanding his own knowledge of the four elements. Since they'd be passing Lanos on the way, the crew also decided to dabble in trading. Both Jack and Fey laid out the funds for Super tattoos just to make sure that their trade was all above-boards. The crew purchased some Goods to sell in the port at Lanos, and set out.
After arriving at Lanos, the crew sold their Goods (for a paltry profit) and took some time to enjoy the little town. It was built on swampy ground, so each building was constructed on stilts, with wooden walkways leading from place to place, connecting buildings and what little dry land there was in the area. Most of the inhabitants were Chinese, from Earth. For the first time since arriving in Caribdus, Jack Shubrick found his species to be the majority!
At one of the bars near the docks, Fey encountered a Human named Constable Jonathan Taylor. He inquired if she and her crew were available for hire as mercenaries for the local Governor. He explained that several of the local rice farmers had gone missing lately, and the little town, lacking a military and employing only civilian constables, couldn't spare the manpower to do much investigation. The crew expressed interest, if the pay was right, and soon they had made an appointment to meet with Gov. Sir Richard Thornsby the following day. Thornsby gave them little more information, stating that the farmers had gone missing usually at night, while returning home from their rice patties. They hadn't been seen or heard from since. The swamps that surrounded Lanos were known to contain dangerous creatures, such as monkapes and tidal snakes, and it was unlikely that the farmers would have simply wandered into them. The pay was indeed quite good, $200 per crewman, so the party agreed to at least look into the matter. Thornsby sent along one of his constables who knew the area to help them out.
Their first order of business was to investigate the rice patties, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary there and the few people they encountered either spoke only Chinese or weren't able to provide any more information than Thornsby did. Curious about the swamps, they found a flat-bottomed swamp boat and ventured into the mires. At first, they didn't find much more than murky water, swamp trees, and clouds of mosquitoes. Grk climbed a tree and saw, far in the distance, a patch of dry land with a cultivated field on it. The constable wasn't aware of any farmland out there. A few more hours into the miserable exploration, however, the water in front of the raft exploded in a shower of mud and leaves as a huge tidal snake, easily twice the length of the raft and as thick as a man's waist, erupted from the water and clamped its powerful jaws onto Birgus. Unfazed by the attack, the Scurillian shook himself free. The others brought out their weapons and attacked the great serpent. As they wounded it, the snake tried to swim off, and they could make out a Human voice somewhere in the trees shouting in Chinese. The voice switched to broken English, telling the party to leave at once, and leave the snake alone. (One of the players played an Adventure Card that gave them some help, so I ran with it. I invented an interesting little back story for the tidal snake, which you'll see in a moment.) The snake swam a short distance away, and through the gloom of the trees the party saw a small figure drop from the trees and land on the snake's back. The constable suggested they attack the rider instead of the snake, but the crew didn't heed his advice.
Finally the tidal snake collapsed, and the figure, which proved to be a young Chinese girl, screamed at them to stop. This thing was somehow her pet! Calypso used her healing magic to keep the tidal snake from dying as the others spoke to the girl. Her name was Lao, and she told them after some questioning (and another Adventure card that gets an NPC to reveal their secrets), she told them that "the men" had made her guard this section of the swamp, to keep anyone from going any further. Unfortunately, she didn't know much more than that and was quite distraught about her injured pet. Since it seemed that she was capable of living on her own in the swamp, and was unwilling to leave her tidal snake, they continued on to investigate the field that Grk had seen. (This is a good example of how the Adventure Cards can not only change the course of an adventure, but add to the story as a whole. This was "just" going to be an encounter with a Wild Card tidal snake, but thanks to that card, the snake is now the pet of a Tarzan-like feral girl who somehow tamed it and lives on her own in the swamps. That's a neat plot element I can come back to later, or expand on, or hang new adventures on.)
A short time later, the crew were concealed behind swamp trees, staring out across a patch of land covered in little flowers that swayed in a gentle breeze. Several armed men were standing guard over workers laboring in the field. The flowers were unknown to most of the crew, but Jack had seen them before. They were opium poppies.